Brownwood hosts groundbreaking for new event center

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
Guests at the groundbreaking for the City of Brownwood's multi-purpose event center are pictured near the Timmins building, which will converted into space for the event center and banquet hall and is the main feature of the development.

A longtime goal for the City of Brownwood moved closer to reality Tuesday afternoon as city officials and other dignitaries held a symbolic groundbreaking for construction of the event center on East Baker Street.

Site work for the $14.27 million facility will begin this month, with completion expected in the fall of 2023. Brownwood City Council members earlier awarded the construction contract to Waldrop Construction.

Waldrop Construction representatives were among the participants in the groundbreaking, held near the old Timmins building. The 16,000-square-foot building — originally built as a warehouse for the Radford Grocery Company in the 1920s — will be converted into a multipurpose event center and is the main feature of the development. 

Brownwood city officials and representatives of Waldrop Construction turn dirt at the symbolic groundbreaking Tuesday afternoon.

“As I stand here today, I can see over your shoulders, the coliseum," Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes said told guests — some seated in rows of folding chairs and others standing nearby — on the hot, windy afternoon.  "And I can’t help but think about how that facility had propelled our economy for decades, that there was a vision in 1960 to build that facility and how it became iconic with this city and recognizing this city.

"I can see the Depot and the train museum and the fire station. I see how lots have been cleared and beautified and I can’t help but think about the vision that was laid decades ago for where we’re standing today. So the groundbreaking today is not just an accomplishment of the current council and  the Brownwood Municipal Development District. It is a great credit to predecessors who came long before us and laid a great vision for this place and  this city. We hope this will be a great complement to this entertainment district that we have going on here. We hope it will be a great complement to the synergy that’s going on downtown and bring lots and lots of visitors to our community, but also be a great place for our residents to meet and to enjoy this particular facility.”

Haynes introduced Waldrop Construction president Sam Waldrop, who said the company had wanted to bring as many local subcontractors as possible into the project. 

"We are very fortunate in being able to bring many, many local people into this project and putting all the money that comes out of this project back into our local community," Waldrop said. "Our company was started in 1946. We’ve got a great tradition here in Brownwood for keeping local businesses going. Since I’ve been back over the last 20 years I’ve seen the cityscape change in a wonderful way. We’ve been able to build many legacy projects throughout the area."

The main feature of the development is the conversion of the Timmins building, on the corner of Baker and Greenleaf, into a multipurpose event center and banquet hall, with spaces for conventions and breakout activities. The event center will also be ideal for banquets, weddings, and a multitude of other event types, city officials have said. The intent of the aesthetic is to bring in modern features while preserving the building’s original industrial character.  

Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes talks to KTAB-TV of Abilene inside the Timmins building. Also pictured is City of Brownwood executive administrator Amanda Coers.

The old Ice House building on Lee Street was demolished down to its foundation to make way a new structure in its place. The structure will feature a premier stage for large events, and a secondary stage for smaller gatherings and concerts. The covered pavilion and stage will also serve as spill-over outdoor space for the larger event center. The open event green space can easily accommodate 7,500 spectators or more, depending on crowd control and setup. An additional 1,400-square-foot structure will be built adjacent to the stage to contain restrooms, support space and additional meeting rooms.  

Reunion Lawn, the site surrounding the Ice House, will include a large viewing lawn/festival ground stretching east (current RV Park) and a small viewing lawn to the south. This will allow for more flexible use for all sizes and types of events. The large viewing lawn will be fenced and available as a mini-festival ground for a variety of outdoor events. The lawn will accommodate 16 food truck connections. Additional parking will be developed on property owned or leased by the city.

The Brownwood Municipal Development District will fund approximately 85 percent of the project through economic development sales tax funds. These funds are generated by an existing ½ cent sales tax and do not come out of the city’s general fund, city officials have said. 

The BMDD has allocated $7 million in cash reserves for this project and will contribute another $5 million through sales tax revenue bonds, which can only be repaid with economic development sales tax dollars. The remaining funds will be contributed by the City of Brownwood through surplus sales tax revenues and savings in the budget from ARPA funds over the next two years.

Once complete, the new Brownwood facility will be available to the public as a rentable event space. City staff has identified and will be recruiting out of town events and conferences to the facility with hopes to further compliment tourism and the revitalization of downtown Brownwood.  

Additional information and conceptual drawings of the project are available at Brownwoodtexas.gov/eventcenter